Every once in a while, here at Printsome, we have the opportunity to (hold on the custom T-shirts talk) and interview the great mind of a creative genius. This time around we bring you the designer Michael Raisch. His work with both the baseball and hockey major leagues have made him famous, but his more personal work, like the tribute to 9/11, is what called our attention.
We approached Michael after he retweeted the Brand Colour Swap piece we did a while back. Very gracefully, he agreed to an interview and here is the result. We talked about his creative process, dealing with new designs, the future of digital storytelling and of course, the amateur Jurassic Park movie.
About Michael’s Background:
Where did you grow up and how would you describe your childhood?
Creatively, I would describe it as an incredible amount of drawing. I grew up in New Jersey, probably 50 miles west of New York City. You found my ‘kid’ ’90s Jurassic Park remake so you are aware of my dedication to creative work back then. My work started as drawing airplanes and cartoons eventually lead to a serious study in portraiture by high school. This was pre-digital. In fact my generation is of the last that grew up analog and went digital by college. That said, I didn’t take any design courses until Fall 2000 in college. Before that I honed my skill in portraiture illustration during the mid-late ’90s. It was a fantastic way to talk to girls in high school. Titanic then came out in 1997, further boosting the interest portraiture. I spent a lot of time drawing notable figures and celebrities of the ’90’s. Below are a few of my sketches of Leonardo Dicaprio, then President Bill Clinton and Liam Neeson as ‘Qui-Gon Jinn’ in 1999.
We saw the 90s’ Jurassic Park remake, it was pretty awesome. Are you still a Jurassic Park fan?
I’m absolutely thrilled you all discovered Jurassic. That was a huge passion, and obviously one of my first passion projects. I had no idea how it would briefly take the internet some 22 years later. We ended up on People.com, the Nerdist and USA Today. In 1993, I was absolutely thrilled about the film, as a visual person, I believe it was the art direction that created the immersive experience of the film. I especially loved the look of the vehicles. From that, I set out to recreate the entire film with a friend’s help and our VHS camcorder. We had retold the story of Jurassic Park from our memories. This was all before the internet and before the film came out on VHS. I hand drew all the backdrops and built the sets. I took the whole thing very seriously for an 11-year-old.
What’s creativity for you? How do you find it?
I find the creativity in what inspires me. This could range from certain events happening in the world to connecting to a global audience. Ways I find creativity include reviewing past projects and life experience I’ve had. For example, There is a lot of nostalgia going around for the 1990’s very recently. (Hence the success of Jurassic) I’ve been trying to parse my experience in art and creative with the thought of ‘Would this content be interesting to a wider audience’. I use this practice with the digital storytelling content I’ve produced over the past two years that has trended with international audiences.
How do you plan your designs before you start drafting them?
I try to find a small moment of thinking space, meaning time in-between things, one mentioned a lot is in the shower. That momentary downtime in critical to let your mind wonder or figure out a problem, or this case a design. I’ve likely had most of my best idea just as I am coming out of the shower. Disconnecting is key here. The shower is of the few last places we are away from phones and screens.
Do you ever suffer creative blocks? If so, how do you get through them?
I’m not sure if I would label them as such. I do, however constantly look for the next source of my inspiration. After I come off a project, usually a personal passion project. I generally start figuring out the next timely topic to go after. In this case, I’ve pulled up all thing Star Wars that I’ve owned over the years. I started building a visual collect on my desk. I expect to see a lot great visual creative work celebrating the new film at the end of the year. I also love looking back on objects and ‘artefacts’ to gain perspective. For example, I managed to find my original Star Wars Episode I movie ticket. I saw it opening day in 1999. It certainly brings back the experience of the hype surrounding it.
Any advice for anyone starting on their own creative path?
Keep raising your digital and online profile. People now connect over great work. This opinion didn’t exist at the point I was leaving college and beginning my career. I believe I hard coded my original ‘RaischStudios’ site and possibly blended some Flash. My graduating group didn’t have the range of the robust online community in design and creative as it exists now. It’s great to network through twitter and continue to produce visually engaging content to help one’s self get more recognized.
Is creating logos for sports teams any different than creating logos for companies? And if so, why?
The distinct difference in doing sports branding is the fan. We’re alway aware of the fan loyal and their visual relationship with the team identity. So with that come a lot of respect for the heritage of the club. In other Major League franchises I’ve redesigned, We’ve paid specific homage in the design. You can also see this trend in the last 5 years or so. Many US teams have looked back to their vintage looks as comfort food for their fan base. This logic is something very similar to our thinking in redeveloping a club identity.
Do you keep the fans in mind when designing the logos? How important it is for them to engage visually?
Heritage. For the fans, it’s that nostalgic connect to a team or franchise. We keep this relationship in view when hashing out design directions early in the creative process. The best franchise identities I’ve been part of honor the legacy of the team and repurpose it in a contemporary way. It’s tie to the past that would definitely engage the fans visually. For the majority of the Major League franchises I’ve redesigned, I’ve heard this analogy made for the work. It’s like being the speechwriter for the President. Much of my career work cannot be discussed in great detail in the public.
The MLB, as any other major sport in America, has got a long tradition and history. How important is that backstory when you conceptualise a new design?
Especially with Major League Baseball we always honour the past. MLB is known as a sport of tradition in the United States. We recently had a great demonstration of this with the design of the MLB 2015 All-Star Game. There the Cincinnati Reds hosted. They are considered the oldest professional baseball club in America. The storied past of the Reds came through in the primary mark, we celebrated the turn of the century design sensibilities. The club and MLB especially wanted to use the period mustache and pillbox cap in the mark. We then also reached to Steve Noble, an illustrator that specialises in etching work. He had him produce signature etching of all of the event graphics. The result was a period immersive experience.
We’ve noticed that you often use architectural elements in your logos. Do you design around them or adapt the element to your concept?
Adapt, usually, we look to the noteworthy landmarks of each event location. It’s through those unique places that we always look to capture. Also, we find they reduce well into an iconic detailing in a mark. These elements also play a large part in celebrating the host city and offer the local flavor. A success of the program has a great deal to with our ability to find and extend this personal into the logo program.
The Tampa Bay Rays had a drastic change going from a Stingray to a ray of light. Was that evolution easy to do? Or did you find hurdles along the way?
The Rays came along at an interesting time in my life. As a young designer, The Tampa Bay Rays become a humbling experience in the vastness of recreating a Major League Franchise and learning the nuisance of the project. The particulars of the burst of light was a place I could take on a creative challenge. In my mid 20’s I was determined to do so. We believe that lighting or the ‘effect of light’ could symbolize the shift to the ‘ray’ of sunlight. This became to vague to illustrate in the logo. I had taken it upon myself to lighting studies atop my apartment building in Jersey City to figure out the effect of the sun on metal type. I use a mailbox number and eventually created and photographed what is know as the ‘glint’ or ‘burst’ of sunlight in their logo. I was pretty pleased with the discovery. Few Rays fan probably know their ray of sun was actual created on a cold winter day in New Jersey.
The “World Visual Hashtag Guide” was pretty cool. How did that idea come about?
I later had heard that the 2014 World Cup was considered the watershed moment for social media and soccer/football. It occurred to me that my studio could produce a relevant piece of content to connect with a global audience. I believe the real excitement and uniqueness of the World Cup is that the world takes pause and connects through the ‘beautiful game’. From there, I had identified the common hashtags either officially or determined by the fans. With my team, I set out to design visually inspired tiles to capture the nationality, colours and uniform details to create the visual hashtags.
The piece really caught on in a matter of days. We were linked on Mashable and Design Taxi. The real thrill was seeing fan take the graphics a tweet them back out on Twitter.
What do you think the future of digital storytelling will be?
I think you’re going to see brand figure out the magic and emotional connection of the stories and their brands. Most likely the best kind of marketing will be seamless with great storytelling. Take a look at Hyundai “Because Football” campaign in 2014 for the World Cup and now for 2015 with the NFL. Yet again content remains king. I’m also looking ahead to responsive branding and what wearable technology will bring us.
Of your entire career, what project are you must proud of?
I’d like to say the 2015 NHL Winter Classic identity. I like the genesis of the logo concept from my own passion for presidential history, specifically that of John F. Kennedy’s presidency. It also won me my first CLIO. But the emotional experience of filming the rise One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan surpasses that.
From 2011 I filmed One World Trade Center through time-lapse as it reclaimed its place in the New York skyline. This particular story is one I’ve taken to heart. When I was in art school the events of September 11th played out in the New York area. I witnessed the destruction of Lower Manhattan in late 2001, I later settled across the river in Jersey City. From there I was fortunate to have the right view of the tower’s construction.
By 2012, I was a new father filming the tower’s progress fit into my life as we just had our baby girl. I was able to run multiple time-lapse cameras from our apartment kitchen window. By 2013, the spire was the final structure of the tower to complete. I decided to publish a week of my time-lapse on YouTube. In doing so Paul McGuire, a British Producer working with the Smithsonian Channel found me and hired me to work on their documentary ‘Crowning New York’. Filming the time-lapse of the World Trade Center is something that am I incredibly proud of and that I will pass on down to my daughter. It was an honor to be part of the retelling of the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.
I hope you liked the interview as much as we did talking to him! If you enjoyed it, do not forget to check out more of his work! His website, RaischStudio, it’s worth a look.
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